Some people will tell you writer’s block doesn’t exist, and I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t, but over the course of the last couple months, for me, well . . . if it wasn’t writer’s block, what the hell was it?

I have never been formally diagnosed with depression, though on occasion I have been treated with prescription drugs for anxiety and panic attacks. Around the time of the release of Baldur’s Gate, I went into a period of wild mood swings, debilitating panic attacks that had me up all night one night, crashing the next, and repeating that cycle day after day. I still don’t know the cause, or if there even was one. Was it that I had just released a book I knew wasn’t good, had found out too late didn’t even mirror the actual story of the game upon which it was based? I had a trip to Disneyland with my wife and daughter planned and I started to descend into a terror over flying—a full-on phobic meltdown. I made the decision, which seemed like a good idea at the time, to stop drinking any caffeinated beverages of any kind, cold turkey. And at least one doctor told me it was because I was around the age of 35 and everybody loses it at 35(ish). Really? Maybe it was all of those things.

Honestly, I’d rather you didn’t.

But that was a lot of years ago, and though I’ve had the occasional bout of anxiety, depression, and much smaller less debilitating panic attacks, I’ve gotten a million times better—almost all better. I even beat the flying thing and now fly prescription drug-free. And for the record, live recreational drug-free all the time.

But this has been a tough couple years. Exciting, yes. Full of interesting new challenges, for sure. But also stressful. Money remains a constant source of stress, along with some other things—nothing weird or terrible or tragic. Nothing they’d produce a Lifetime movie about—just mundane stresses of modern life in the Great Depression II.

I poured my heart out on a lot of this around New Year’s time. I was feeling the beginnings of this round of depression then and it’s carried through for the last couple months, finally spiking a few weeks ago to the point that I actually finally went to the doctor, got on a small dose anti-depressant, and made serious changes to my lifestyle: diet, exercise, scheduling, workload, etc.…

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. lynxchild says:

    Wonderful post. I struggle with depression myself, and this post says a lot that I believe writers should be aware of. Permission to reblog (using the reblog function, giving you credit, of course)?

  2. lynxchild says:

    Reblogged this on writingatmidnight and commented:
    Not a post I wrote myself, but a valuable message, one I felt was worth sharing. Reblogged with permission.

  3. jakeescholl says:

    Writer’s block is very real. I had it for years, and I still deal with it sometimes. It effects every writer. I will definitely re-blog this. 🙂

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